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Author Topic: [Pentarch] Boffer LARP design (split)  (Read 4184 times)
Jake Boone
Member

Posts: 15


« on: January 16, 2006, 12:05:40 AM »

Work proceeds on Pentarch, though slowly.  I've returned to this thread many times, just rereading what all of you have said and pondering what I really want from this game.

Overall, I think this game is going to be about power struggles, and players in the game try to consolidate power.  The rest - the fighting, the resource collection, the magic - should amount to either ways to wield/gain that power, or distractions from doing so.  I want players to have to make tradeoffs to meet their goals.  If I can concentrate more on making the game about "who gets to call the shots" instead of "how effective is my guy in combat," I think I'll be happier in the long run.

I want the game to "run itself" as much as possible, without a huge NPC overhead.  I like the "New World" idea Lig mentioned, and am considering making all of the characters involuntary transportees (like a sort of fantasy Australia).  Then there's no preset social order, there's no Big Important NPC to run to for help, and I won't need to make my players stop playing their characters to portray the Duke's Elite Guards or Peasant Family #365.

Simon's suggestion of "Sources of Income" have of course become rather more prominent to me since starting to think this way.  Most of these folks wouldn't have any coins, and they'd be nearly valueless for those few who managed to smuggle them to the New World.  Sources of fresh water or food, however, would be extremely valuable, and those who could manufacture trade goods could barter with other transportees or with the natives.

Combat should be all about a gritty sort of fear.  I want people to consider combat a last resort, so it needs to be deadly, and should often be nearly as full of suffering for the victor as the vanquished.  To that end, I suppose wounds should last for a substantial amount of time, and should involve notable mechanical penalties.  People who choose to play specialist warrior types should be either pitied (because they've gotta be at least somewhat crazy to want to risk their lives like that), or feared (for precisely the same reason).

Not that there won't be combat; the natives, of course, will not be universally happy about the arrival of these newcomers...

Yeesh, it's late.  I'll write more later, but does this seem like I'm at least getting closer to defining what I want the game to do?  It's amazing how hard answering a simple question can be.

 -- Jake

P.S. Graham, I've ordered Dogs in the Vineyard (along with several Sorcerer books).  I'm very much looking forward to delivery.
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TheTris
Member

Posts: 68


« Reply #1 on: January 16, 2006, 01:47:47 AM »

Okay, my reaction, which was touched on by at least one person, is "Why Boffer?".  It seems like you've taken trouble to set out your design goals, but even before that you've decided the major mechanic of your combat system.  One of your initial design goals was something like "Boffer LARP, without so much boffer".  So why boffer at all?  It might be the right mechanic, but it seems like you assumed that before you started designing the game.

Oh, and one way of preventing the "guys who aren't good at Boffer-fighting can't play good fighters" problem would be to limit the weapons you can use depending on your character's skill in melee.  So a guy with no skill can use a dagger, someone with one skill can use a sword, and someone with 2 skill can use a two handed sword (which is understood by all to be a 'lethal' weapon, that hurts more in some way).

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My real name is Tristan
Jake Boone
Member

Posts: 15


« Reply #2 on: January 16, 2006, 11:27:14 AM »

Yeah, I did decide on boffers pretty much straight away.  My justification for that is primarily my own personal preference; having played games with boffer combat resolution and without, I've decided I prefer the boffer-based.  It's (to me, at least) less damaging to Suspension-Of-Disbelief, as other combat systems remind me I'm playing a game, at the very moment (IMO) it's most important to not feel that way.  For me, the visceral terror of combat is one of the things that really draws me to a LARP (and rock-paper-scissors, for example, just doesn't scratch that itch).

Generally, I like the idea of people actually performing the actions their characters are performing, and failing that, using as close an approximation as possible.

I'll add that I've seen two distinct types of boffer combat, as well.  With NERO's system, in my experience, there's generally not much reason to actually parry; parrying is a waste of time you could be using to whittle away at the other guy's massive pile of hit points.  NERO combat, therefore, tends to involve two people charging toward each other, then repeatedly smacking the other guy's leg fifty times. 

My own combat rules, on the other hand, seem to make combat look more... combatty (which is one of the things I was shooting for).  People circle, parry blows, and use terrain to their advantage.  I think this (in conjunction with the "fear" issue above) justifies the inclusion of the mechanic.  And with a strictly limited ability for characters to soak up damage, even a lousy boffer fighter is a notable threat.  The combat system has been playtested, BTW, and the results (in conjunction with my own bias, no doubt) seem to support what I'm saying here.

Upon rereading the above, I see that it may well appear similar to the justifications of someone defending a sacred cow.  I don't think that's what I'm doing; I really like the whole experience of playing a game with "real" combat.  However, since the inclusion of boffer combat predates my discovery of the Forge, GNS, et al, I'll have to admit that it's possible.  Is that what I'm doing here?

 -- Jake
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Lig
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Posts: 11

It's all my fault...


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« Reply #3 on: January 16, 2006, 01:19:13 PM »

Maybe it is a golden cow, or maybe not. The important thing is that it does what you need it to.

Particularly if combat isn't the main focus of the larp, then you don't want to have lots of combat rules - whether you're using "boffers" or not, the characters presumably have hit points and armour values and suchlike; would you benefit by including extra rules for working out combats, or by getting the players to act out the fight with weapons?

I'll admit to being brainwashed here, but having tried "scissors-paper-stone", I don't know how you can justify using it for combat unless it's impractical for safety reasons. I can understand that it's not practical in the back room of the local bar, but it's perfectly acceptable on many sites.

Don't let mechanics replace anything that people can do for real; no-one can actually cast a wounding spell, but everyone can swing a weapon. So, how would the game benefit from using a more abstract combat system?

Jake - glad things are going well. Having played in such systems, I found "power struggles" between players far more exciting than "saving the world" from the NPCs. One thing to consider, though, is that you don't a "new world" to do what you're talking about - but you do need some kind evironment where the player characters can, or do, set the social equilibrium. You could do this in an "old world" by making the PCs the rulers, or by making the game very "local", so that the player actions aren't a big deal on the world-scale, but are a big deal locally.

The only thing you need to ensure is that the players characters can "build" things in the world - you could have the best system in the world, but if the PCs are moved around at the organisers whim (eg. Event 1 is in the Mountains of Raaaa; Event 2 is in the Desert of Spongle), and those locations are outside the players ability to set the social equilibrium, then you undermine everything you've been trying to achieve.

As an example, at N-E-X-U-S, the players have really got into the local politics and whatnot - there are arguments over the right of the medics to charge fees, and whether the settlement council should introduce tax (and what it should do with that tax). As things stand, the players seem to be getting into those issues - sucess or failure is important to their characters. But if we ran an event, say, 300 miles away, beyond the ability of the players to set the social equilibrium, then all their efforts become futile.
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We could be a thousand years apart, or a thousand miles away...and yet, here we are.
Jake Boone
Member

Posts: 15


« Reply #4 on: January 16, 2006, 01:50:04 PM »

Lig: Your points about equilibrium are well-taken.  I had come up with a vague idea about "location-specific PCs," so that a player might be Ned the Yodeler during games set within the Mountains of Raaaa, but play Bob the Desert Raider in games set within the Desert of Spongle.  Of course, making sure that the game is always set in the same location certainly is simpler.  But yes, I agree completely.

Also, I apologize to the moderators for dragging this thread out of its crypt and exposing it to the light.  I wasn't trying to flout convention; I had just forgotten about the "make a new thread and link the old one" thing.  Thanks to Andrew Morris for the helpful reminder.

 -- Jake
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #5 on: January 16, 2006, 05:31:07 PM »

The above posts were split from [Pentarch] Boffer LARP design. The discussion is welcome to continue here.

Everyone, please attend to the site rules sticky posts at the top of the Site Discussion forum. They include some unusual rules for participation here.

Also, Jake, please, never apologize to me as moderator. That's actually contrary to some important social rules here - think about it as if you'd committed a minor traffic infraction and the cop is ticketing you or helping you out. You wouldn't apologize to him, and if you did, he would not accept it.

Best,
Ron
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TheTris
Member

Posts: 68


« Reply #6 on: January 17, 2006, 01:39:25 AM »

A couple of things:

It doesn't sound like a golden cow at all.  I found your explanation very convincing - it sounds like you've thought about it even if you hadn't thought about thinking about it. :-)  Keeping a sense of excitement and fear about combat, and helping suspend disbelief are very good reasons to use a boffer system, imo.

The "If a player can do it, why use rules" argument is a little difficult, because it does limit what characters a guy can roleplay.  If I'm rubbish with a boffer but great at electronics, and you have electrician rules but allow player ability in combat, I can't play a good fighter, and my natural ability at fixing up electronic stuff is useless.

Finally I also find PvP an enjoyable part of LARP, but I'd suggest that many LARPs are to some extent incoherent.  They require you to play a character and to try to outdo the other players.  In my experience it's hard to do these two things at the same time.  If I always do exactly as my character would, there is no PvP game.  If I always do what's best in PvP terms, why bother pretending I have a character?  I don't know how to reduce the clash between these two objectives, but it strikes me it would be good design to do so.
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My real name is Tristan
Arpie
Member

Posts: 83


« Reply #7 on: January 23, 2006, 09:15:58 PM »

Sorry I missed this thread, earlier. I don't read the Forge all that much, these days.

But, just an idea I've wanted to throw at Boffers for some time:
What about basing some mechanics around endurance rather than accuracy?

Now, I know you want to go for a gritty feel, but consider how difficult it is to accurately judge hits in Boffer (especially when people are excited.) And the visceral thrill of a good pounding is very therapeutic.

Well, if you made it more of a "who gives first" question, then you take care of at least the iffy-ness of whether a hit was valid or not. Then you can base the wounds off two factors:

Who gave in during the battle and the dangerous (imaginary) qualities of the weapons involved. That way, the factors involved in the loser's weapon will leave the guy with more Real Life stamina with genine scars/injuries and the loser gets additional pain as doled out by the victor.

(In fact, you could use the loser's weapon to determine the victor's wounds and have the victor state what he or she wins by the battle - limited in some small way, perhaps. The important factor here is that the victor does not get to apply his weapon's damage.  Or perhaps you could deal with it in reverse, limiting the victor to dealing damage from his or her weapon and awarding the loser some kind of booby prize.)

Anyway, I think your ideas are good, but I've just wanted to air that idea for a long time.
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Jake Boone
Member

Posts: 15


« Reply #8 on: January 24, 2006, 01:17:01 PM »

The Tris:

I'm not particularly concerned about the "boffer vs. electronics" issue you describe, mainly because I don't see any way to address it without adding rules for every conceivable situation, so as to make sure everybody can do everything.  Frankly, having played in games that try to ensure that everyone can play a "good fighter," I have decided that equality among characters is not as important to me as the verisimilitude of real-looking combat.

While I agree that an unskilled boffer-swinger will be at some disadvantage against a skilled one in combat, I see this issue as analogous to that of a tabletop RPG about solving mysteries by unraveling subtle clues.   Let's say a rather dense person plays, and he desperately wants to play a brilliant detective.  I suspect he's going to be doomed to disappointment, because either he flails about trying to make sense of the clues, or the system dumbs things down the the level of a die roll, which loses the thrill of "I solved a mystery!"  Some characters just don't seem suitable for some players.

That said, I've been trying to make the combat system so dangerous and quick that even the best boffer fighter in the game, making a character maximized for combat, still has ample reason to fear the "ordinary" folks.  If you stink at combat, recognize that fact and do one or more of: avoid combat (which, I admit, is of limited use if you've got someone who really wants you done away with); carry a weapon that allows you to strike first (a spear, for example); or gang up.  In the combat system as playtested, even lousy fighters were very dangerous in groups of two or three.  Alternatively, play a character who loves combat, fight a lot, and learn.  After all, it's not like many of your opponents spent their lives training for boffer fighting, so it shouldn't take that long to get somewhere near the top of the field.

On another note, when I first discovered the Forge, one of the threads I read mentioned that LARPs tend to be cliques of players playing different games with different creative agendas (agendae?).  Each of these groups tend to think the others are playing "wrong," and angst ensues.  Aside from being sure to make the premise of the game abundantly clear at the outset, so as to both attract players who want to play a certain way, and, to a certain extent, repel those who don't, I'm not sure how to address this issue.  Suggestions from anyone reading this are, of course, more than welcome.

Now, I'm not sure if this is what you're referring to with the bit about doing "exactly as my character would" as opposed to "what's best in PvP terms."  Examples would help me understand a bit better - I'm kind of an "examplocentric" sort of guy.

Arpie:

I may be misreading what you're saying, but are you suggesting that people hit each other until one of them decides he's lost?  Or do you have something more complex in mind?  I'm intrigued.

 -- Jake
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Arpie
Member

Posts: 83


« Reply #9 on: January 25, 2006, 10:25:21 PM »

Yeah, that's pretty much what I was suggesting.

I know it sounds weird, but in a few limited experiments I've tried with this methodology I find it produces two results:

One, while some people find it a great stress releiver the first couple times, people's nerves really start to go at the thought of repeated poundings. Also, the natural enthusiasm of not having to control your blows (beyond reasonable safety zones) starts to tire people out, resembling the fatigue of shorter, but more stressful exchanges.

And, secondly, if encourages people without much practice in the boffer arena/mock fighting traditions to participate a little more, removing the terrible barrier of nervousness - or, at least, it makes it easier to encourage non-SCA/Amtgardian/NERO enthusiasts to join in.

The downside, of course, is that persons who believe strongly in the hit-location, edge-simulation model don't take it seriously. They often overlook the effects of fatigue on emotions before and after a violent encounter and how important it is in hand-to-hand combat.  It also creates more nervousness about approaching conflicts.

I've also heard the complaint that it isn't as precise and takes away form the finesse of real swordplay, but that assumes that real swordplay is also attempted by masters and not desperate or angry souls in nasty situations. Also, I think people cheat a lot, so I thought simpler would be more fair.

Anyway, even if it doesn't fit your game model, I hope you at least consider this rather unconventional idea.
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TheTris
Member

Posts: 68


« Reply #10 on: January 26, 2006, 01:06:04 AM »

Kicking with the helpful examples (of how I find LARPs have a conflict between competition and playing a character) :

My character, Harry Ubervald, is a proud man, capable in a fight, who's pride and bluster are a front for his lack of self confidence which stem from being a small child who was bullied by his elder brothers.  Still, he follows his own code of honour, and sees himself as a good man.

When a rival character, Joss Vinhart, insults Harry in public, and I know that the audience includes a potential trade partner, who is looking to decide between Joss and Harry, and who dislikes violence.  I know Joss has insulted me to provoke me into losing my temper, and the trade deal with it.

In my experience, LARPS ask both for roleplaying, and for competition between players.  So I now have to make a decision:

Roleplaying Harry in his entireity, I am most likely to try to take Joss down.  He may end up with a few bruises, but he'll get the valuable contract.  He is rewarded for his PvP success.

Competing to the utmost, I am confident I can outmanouvre Joss' player in a social arena, ruin his reputation, and leave him a broken man.

One hybrid position is to not get into the fight, knowing how much it will lose me, but hamstring myself in the social arena, because I will not break Harry's code of honour.

Which should I do?  In my experience (which is all of what I see as very enjoyable and well run LARP games) there was only one one-off game of Cthulhu where this conflict did not arise for me, and I still saw it arising for other players (in fact I was asked afterwards why my character didn't do more to get out from what I knew was a dangerous situation.)  Now like I say, I've enjoyed all the LARPs I've played in, finding some reasonable compromise position.  But it isn't entirely satisfying, and it is a compromise.

In the worst cases, calls of "Munchkin" are heard in the pub afterwards, as people who roleplayed more resent the less in-character approach of some players.
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My real name is Tristan
Simon Marks
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Posts: 67


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« Reply #11 on: January 26, 2006, 01:29:56 AM »

Tris.

A basic system that I came up with involved bidding, traits and suchlike using playing cards. It's a little clunky, but the concept is there.

Basically, it's a universal conflict resolution - consider this exchange.

Harry and Joss are in the situation you describe.

Joss insults Harry and indicates he is making a "Social Attack" of (say) "Six of Hearts"
Harry (knowing the rules) can either give and react as per his "Failure Trait" for Hearts - which is to react violently, or he can resist or even rebuff.

Anyhow, lets say he gives. Joss gives him his card - action ensues.
Harry has been rewarded by Joss for roleplaying that way that Joss wants him to.

If he resists, both he and Joss lose a card, if he Rebuffs, he raises the bid and says "No lets do things my way"

Basically it's this.
You get OOC power rewards for later by giving up IC advantage now.
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TheTris
Member

Posts: 68


« Reply #12 on: January 26, 2006, 05:42:08 AM »

That's cool.  I can see it's a really good idea, as it allows for players to opt to act in character in exchange for a reward.  I'm not sure it totally resolves the dilemna, but it's good.

I had an vague idea to take hit points out of LARP to an extent, while still not making people fall over in one hit, which I think does a similar thing.

You have X hit points.  If you take a blow, you can be taken out by it, or lose a HP (your choice).  Any HP you have left convert to experience points at the end of the game.
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My real name is Tristan
Arpie
Member

Posts: 83


« Reply #13 on: January 27, 2006, 10:01:21 AM »

Well, that's fine for cards, I feel.

But in boffer situations, which it seems Pentarch uses, mathematics can really flub up the action, even simple subtraction.

Well, it does for me, anyway. It's one of the reasons I don't boffer much and it keeps my wife out of the arena entirely. Which is a shame, because we do both enjoy pounding on eachother with padded sticks from time to time.
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Jake Boone
Member

Posts: 15


« Reply #14 on: February 02, 2006, 09:55:30 PM »

Here's a question: What are some possibilities for rewards in a LARP other than experience points or some sort of in-game rank mechanic?  And how should one determine how to give out these rewards?  I lie awake nights wondering about these issues, and no flash of inspiration has yet come.
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